With the policy releases of the last week
now have both the government and opposition's broadband plans. There are some
substantial differences between the plans which livens this debate. Labor
are proposing a fibre connection to the neighbourhood while the coalition
are proposing a combination of fibre backbones, ADSL 2 telephone exchanges
and WiMax based wireless access.
The use of wireless means the
Coalition's proposal covers more of the country. Labor's rolling
out of Fibre is prohibitively expensive in remote areas and simply will not
happen. However, even wireless will not cover everyone and satellite Internet
access will still be required for the most remote locations.
By defintion fibre will deliver faster speeds
than ADSL or any wireless technology so the Labor proposal is far faster.
The coalition's plan to use wireless is also problematic as wireless rarely
delivers the advertised speeds.
The cost to the individual is to difficult
to ascertain. From experience with existing ADSL and wireless providers, the
cost of the coalition's plan will not be too different to existing
plans. It's impossible to guess what the cost to the consumer would be with
the Labor plan, but with a Labor government funding the building of the network,
much of the capital costs are being paid by the taxpayer which will make the
service cheaper to the customer.
The cost to all of us as taxpayers
is a different story. The coalition plan is far cheaper at around 1 billion
dollars as opposed to the opposition's 4.7 billion. While experience shows
voters should take both these numbers with a grain of salt, it's safe to say
Labor's proposal is far more expensive than the coalition's.
When evaluating politician's promises it's
always important to ask when it will be delivered. The coalition's proposal
can be delivered far quicker than Labor's while the Labor network will take
at least two government terms to roll out. We can expect to start seeing the
Coalition's network appearing before the election.
Of the two proposals, the Labor proposal
is the most likely to stand the ravages of time. Both ADSL and WiMax are evolving
technologies that will be superceded in the medium term. Fibre to the home
and office is the way of the future, it will becomes economical to replace
the existing copper wires that have been laid over the last 100 years.
With projects as big as this, there's always
more to it than the headlines and press releases. With the Labor proposal,
the unanswered question is the fast Internet from the node to your
home or office. There's also a concern that the International links simply
don't have the capacity to deal with the sort of traffic a domestic fibre
network will generate.
The biggest flaw in the coalition's proposal
is in the use of WiMax as a wireless technology. WiMax hasn't been fully rolled
out anywhere and it's one of these technologies that seems to have been promising
the world for ever without actually delivering. As anyone with a wireless
computer network knows, wireless is not the most reliable way to connect
to the information superhighway.
In summary, the advantages are that Labor
is promising a faster network which will stand the test of time. The coalition
is providing a network that can be rolled out quickly and cheaply to
cover more of the population. Both have clear advantages over each other.